402 F.3d 635 (6th Cir. 2005), 02-6436, Bates v. Bell

Docket Nº:02-6436.
Citation:402 F.3d 635
Party Name:Wayne Lee BATES, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Ricky BELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:March 23, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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402 F.3d 635 (6th Cir. 2005)

Wayne Lee BATES, Petitioner-Appellant,


Ricky BELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 02-6436.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

March 23, 2005.

Argued: Sept. 22, 2004

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Stephen M. Kissinger, Federal Defender Services, Knoxville, Tennessee,

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for Appellant.

Alice B. Lustre, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.


Stephen M. Kissinger, Federal Defender Services, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Alice B. Lustre, Gordon W. Smith, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: MERRITT, BATCHELDER, and MOORE, Circuit Judges.


MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

Wayne Lee Bates was sentenced to death by a jury in the Criminal Court for Coffee County, Tennessee, after pleading guilty to first degree murder. After state post-conviction proceedings ended, he sought habeas relief, which was denied in the District Court. On appeal, Bates challenges the voluntariness of his guilty plea and the constitutionality of his sentencing hearing. As the record does not support Bates's contention that his plea was entered unknowingly or involuntarily, his conviction must stand. We do, however, find merit in Bates's claim of prosecutorial misconduct and conclude that Bates death sentence must be vacated. We therefore AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part.

In the present case, the jury was prevented from giving proper consideration to mitigating circumstances that may have led the jury to reject the death penalty. The state prosecutors engaged in prejudicial misconduct in violation of the Due Process Clause. In closing argument at the sentencing phase of the trial, the state prosecutors repeatedly told the jury that by "permitting" Bates to live they would "become an accomplice" to the murder and an accomplice to future crimes, because Bates is a "rabid dog" to whom they will be issuing a "warrant of execution for someone else." Suggesting that a vote for a life sentence for Bates was a vote for a death sentence for others was a continuing refrain throughout the final argument. The prosecutors frequently followed these expressions with their negative personal opinions about Bates's expert witness and with personal attacks against Bates's lawyers. On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court criticized the prosecutors for not following "disciplinary rules." It referred to their conduct as "clearly improper," "inappropriate," and "certainly uncalled for." The misconduct poisoned the atmosphere of the sentencing hearing and amounted to a denial of Bate's rights to due process of law. His death sentence arising from this fundamentally unfair hearing cannot be permitted to stand.

I. Background


On July 20, 1986, Bates escaped the custody of authorities in Allen County, Kentucky, where he had been charged with first-degree burglary, possession of stolen property, and two misdemeanors. Two days later, he broke into a residence in Simpson County, Kentucky, and stole several items including a .410-gauge single-barrel shotgun. After sawing off the stock and barrel of the gun, he hid the weapon in a suitcase stolen from the residence. On July 23, 1986, Bates was at an exit off Interstate 24 in Manchester, Tennessee, where he was planning to steal an automobile. Julie Guida, a 28-year-old mechanical engineer from Utah who was staying at the Manchester Holiday Inn, was jogging in the area of the interstate exit. Bates pulled the stolen shotgun and confronted Guida. After a brief struggle, he walked her into the woods off the jogging trail. Using her shoelaces and the headphone cord from her portable radio, Bates tied her to a tree. To prevent her from crying out, Bates attempted to gag

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Guida with one of her own socks. Bates told Guida that he was going to leave her there while he took her car. Then without warning, he shot her once in the back of the head, killing her instantly.

After hiding her body under some brush, Bates returned to Guida's hotel room, where he showered, shaved, and ate some fruit. Bates then departed in Guida's rental car, taking her money and traveler's checks. He drove east across Tennessee, heading for his home in Maryland. At a Bristol, Tennessee truck stop, he picked up two hitchhikers, who assisted him in using Guida's traveler's checks to pay for food and other items. On July 26, 1986, Bates was arrested on an unrelated offense in Baltimore, Maryland. Tracing the traveler's checks stolen from Guida, the Tennessee authorities eventually identified Bates as a suspect. While he was being held in Maryland, Bates was questioned multiple times. He made two statements of confession to the murder, both of which are contested by Bates as inadmissible.


On August 20, 1986, following the July 26 arrest, Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") agents interviewed Bates regarding the interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and the possible kidnapping of Guida. He was properly advised of his right against self-incrimination and his right to counsel, but he refused to sign the acknowledgment form. After the agents informed him that several witnesses had seen him in the stolen vehicle and showed him a picture of Guida, Bates told the agents, "I believe I need a lawyer." The agents ended the interrogation and returned Bates to jail. No effort was made to afford him access to an attorney over the next thirteen days. See State v. Bates, 804 S.W.2d at 872.

On September 2, 1986, representatives from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") and the Coffee County District Attorney's office interrogated Bates for over five hours. They did so despite having been informed by the FBI that Bates had requested an attorney. During the questioning, he confessed to shooting Guida. This confession was captured on audio tape. Nine days later, on September 11, 1986, an FBI agent was collecting hair samples from Bates pursuant to a court order. Bates, who had still not been provided an attorney, told the agent that he did not understand why they were collecting hair samples as he had already confessed to the shooting. The FBI agent presented Bates with an advice of rights form and waiver which Bates signed. Bates then confessed a second time. Bates also confessed the murder to Paul Carter while both men were confined in the Coffee County jail. The Tennessee Supreme Court later ruled that the first confession should have been excluded from the record, but found its admission harmless error as these subsequent confessions were valid and substantially tracked the tainted confession.1

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Bates moved to suppress the confession. After the trial court denied his motion to suppress, Bates pled guilty to murder in the first degree and to grand larceny, preserving his right to appeal the admission of the confessions. The Coffee County prosecutors sought the death penalty. For a defendant to be executed in Tennessee, the jury must determine after a special sentencing hearing whether the death penalty is appropriate. In doing so, the jury must determine whether or not the state has proven the existence of particular statutory aggravating circumstances, and, if so, weigh those aggravating factors against any mitigating evidence. During the sentencing trial, the prosecutors attempted to prove the existence of three statutory aggravating circumstances:

1. The defendant was previously convicted of one or more felonies, other than the present charge, which involve the use or threat of violence to the person;

2. The murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant or another; and

3. The murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in committing, or was an accomplice in the commission of, or was attempting to commit, or was fleeing after committing or attempting to commit, any burglary, robbery, larceny or kidnapping.

Additionally, the prosecutors argued that Bates would continue to be a danger to society. In response, defense counsel for Bates attempted to demonstrate the existence of mitigating circumstances. Specifically, the defense pointed to the three following statutory mitigating factors:

1. The murder was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance;

2. The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was substantially impaired as a result of mental disease or defect or intoxication which was insufficient to establish a defense to the crime but which substantially affected his judgment; and

3. The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.

In support of their case of mitigation, the defendant's mother, Helen Bates, and a psychiatrist, Dr. John Griffin, testified on his behalf. Helen Bates testified regarding the troubled childhood of Wayne Lee Bates. She indicated that lung and bowel development complications appeared immediately after his birth and that he had recurrent health problems. She discussed his early behaviors of violent rocking and aggression toward his sibling. Ms. Bates testified to the culture of violence in which he was raised. Bates's father abused her, often in the presence of the children, and on one occasion broke her arm. She testified that his father took his younger sister into another room and played "Russian Roulette" with her. At one point during the defendant's childhood, Ms. Bates shot her husband. Although Bates's father was not fatally wounded, he died from an overdose

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of pain medication after returning from the hospital. Ms. Bates testified...

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